Jouetsu Line Shinkansen out of Tokyo. Double-decker bullet train, two engines, back to back (to get up the eventual mountains, I guess). Upper deck. Looking down makes the train seem top-heavy, and I feel a bit of vertigo. I wonder if I should go down below, but the feeling passes. Out the window, Tokyo blends seamlessly into Saitama suburbs which seem to go on forever, then peter off into farmland, factories. Not much else. The Kanto Plain, but there’s a mountain range in the distance. I wonder if there’ll be any snow?
Flat farm village. Down below the tracks, daikon are layed out in bunches to dry along the a dirt path. A tiny cramped, walled-in cemetery, with a scrapyard on the other side of one wall. Patchwork of fields of brown, green, clear plastic.
Fujisan again, I think, but from another angle. This time, the peak is lost in the clouds. One can only see broad snowy slopes.
In the distance, a big white statue on a hill. The huge Buddha (46 metres) of Takasaki. Close up, it’s the most impressive or the tackiest thing you’ll ever see. Depends on whom you talk to. Takasaki itself looks like every other city in Japan. Perhaps it’s an amazing place, but not from a train window.
Fuji gives a serene view
Does not return the favour.
Suddenly (those mountains were closer than I thought), we enter a tunnel. A long one. And then another, and another. Every time we emerge, there’s more snow on the ground. Finally, 700 km out of Osaka, we pull into Joumoukougen Station (上毛高原駅). Big station, small town. A local bus takes passengers through narrow, winding roads, past various hot spring inns. We get off and wait for another bus, which takes us, finally, to Houshi Onsen (法師温泉), and the inn, Choujukan (長寿館). March 18th, a Sunday. Below zero. Two days left in winter. What am I doing here?
Photos of Houshi Onsen, on Flickr.